Harvesting Life: Water Storage in a new form of Concrete

Deploy™

5. Gender Equality 6. Clean Water and Sanitation 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities 12. Responsible Consumption and Production

Overview

Deploy™ offers a sustainable water management storage product through its game-changing water tanks made from a special concrete-filled fabric. Deploy™ has disrupted the concrete technology and opened a new chapter of environmentally-friendly concrete water tanks, specifically answering the clean water storage needs of people around the world. Deploy™ ’s water tanks make water storage environmentally friendly, less expensive, more durable, and easily installed for remote locations.

Author

Sila Basturk Agiroglu

Sila Basturk Agiroglu

School

York University- Schulich School of Business

York University- Schulich School of Business

Professor

Charles Cho

Charles Cho

Innovation

Water is the essence of life, the archê according to the first philosopher Thales. Since ancient times, humanity has drastically changed its relationship with nature, seeking other answers to the origin of life but water has remained the most critical source of any form of living. Yet, 2 billion people still live in countries experiencing high water stress according to the UN (2019) and this number is expected to rise as a result of climate change in the coming years. Global Water Institute (2013) estimates 700 million people could be displaced globally by intense water scarcity by 2030. Deploy™ ’s water tanks are one of the best examples of how humanity can tackle these catastrophic future scenarios using engineering solutions.

The unique business model of the company relies on the design of a special material called concrete-filled fabric. The material looks like a carpet squeezed with high pressure which is flat and foldable. Before contacting with water, a Deploy™ water tank weighs c. 500 kilograms, 30 times lighter than a water tank made from conventional concrete. While the water is poured, the folded water tank is blown up like a balloon and ready to use in 24 hours.

Deploy™ is a product answering a wide range of water storage needs such as agriculture, wildfire mitigation, sewage, flood mitigation, disaster relief, and clean water sanitation. Deploy™ helps to deliver a positive impact on the environment and people by providing clean water sanitation (SGD 6) and innovative infrastructure (SGD 9) to support sustainable communities (SDG 11) and gender equality (SDG 5) while decreasing the carbon footprint of production (SDG 12).

Harvesting Life: Water Storage in a new form of Concrete

Inspiration

The two like-minded young engineers, Beren Kayali (originally from Turkey) and Paul Mendieta (originally from Ecuador) met during their Master’s degree in Innovation Design Engineering at Imperial College and the Royal College of Art in London. Kayali has always been an engineer by heart, motivated to make the world a better place. Mendieta has engaged in water management and construction engineering since his early ages thanks to his involvement in the family business. He also worked as an intern at Deploy™ ’s key material supplier for the concrete-filled fabric.

Together, they went on a site visit in Nairobi focusing on a waste management project. Neither of the co-founders was afraid of getting their hands dirty and they had a chance to observe the compatibility of each other’s work principles. During that time, Kayali also visited the largest slum of Africa in Kibera. She was impressed by how people are trying to cope with water scarcity. This site visit was the kick-off of a new water storage design which was born as a student project and evolved to a start-up targeting positive impact on profit, planet, and people.

Kayali's dedication to engineering solutions is reflected in how she pictures the future:

“If you are serious about net-zero, the first step is accepting the fact that this is not an easy transition. As I am involved more deeply in the everyday details of the business, I see there are long and complicated flows of material in the supply chains. I acknowledge how far we have come and appreciate every bit of carbon footprint reduction we have achieved.”

Overall impact

Deploy™ targets remote and rural locations that lack centralized infrastructure water management systems. Concrete water tanks require higher financial investment, advanced transportation systems such as paved roads, and ongoing engineering support during their 20-year average useful life. Another alternative to water storage is plastic water tanks. However, plastic requires significant efforts of cleaning and more frequent renewal of the tank itself. More importantly, it is not possible to export a plastic water tank easily from one country to another since it is already filled with air and heavy for transportation. One hundred Deploy™ water tanks take up a similar space filled by only four plastic water tanks.

This compactness makes Deploy™ a potential collaborator of aid corporations that operate in geographically dispersed areas on shorter-term assignments. The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) was procuring survival kits for refugee camps which include a water filter, solar panels, and small-scale electricity generation equipment. The missing component was water tanks which are not possible to solve with conventional concrete or plastic products. UNECE reached out to Deploy™ for the potential addition of Deploy™ water tanks answering the need of refugee camps in a practical and doable product solution.

As the product evolved, the co-founders realized the usage area of Deploy™ covers not only rural communities but any location with a need for water management. The need to access cheap water sources, such as rainfall harvest, enlarges Deploy™ ’s potential customer base in regions facing more frequent heatwaves and wildfires.

Business benefit

Deploy™ was established as a company in June 2020. The Royal College of Art invested in Deploy™ during the pre-seed phase and the co-founders also raised funds from their close friends and family. In 2021, Deploy™ completed its seed investment round successfully for the establishment of manufacturing lines and quality control. During the early stages, Deploy™ had to make it clear the company is not an NGO but a profit-seeking company. For similar start-ups, Kayali emphasized the importance of being clear about the company’s profit-making capacity to gain investors’ confidence in the market.

She remembers the first moment the tide turned for Deloy™ as follows:

“We were relying on our savings to continue our operations. Deploy™ was competing for a sustainability track with a cash prize. We had to win the competition, but we didn’t. A week later, we were watching the finals with mixed feelings. Before announcing the finalist, they announced a social impact award which we even didn’t know exists. The winner was Deploy™.”

The co-founders moved the central office to Wales to benefit from proximity to their primary raw material supplier. Currently, four people are working for Deploy™ in addition to the co-founders. A new junior mechanical engineer and two blue-collar workers will join the team soon. They are also working jointly with Concrete Canvas’ engineering team for specialized tasks.

The customer base of Deploy™ is wide and diverse. Currently, the company is in discussions with several UN initiatives, disaster relief organizations, but also looking into business opportunities in the UK for utilization of Deploy™ for irrigation needs of houses, playgrounds, and agricultural fields. The company is planning to export its first products in 2022.

Social and environmental benefit

SDG 6: Deploy™ offers a unique product design for a sustainable water management system applicable to a wide range of sectors and locations. Moreover, it has a longer useful life, supporting the environmentally friendly lifecycle of the product.

SDG 12: Compared to the conventional concrete tanks, Deploy™ uses 75% less water and releases 70% less carbon dioxide during production. A concrete water tank’s thickness is 15 cm compared to 6 mm of the Deploy™ water tanks. The lighter weight of the fabric material makes it easier and 90% less carbon-intensive to transport the water tank in a folded and flat-packed form using standard transportation pallets.

SDG 9: Deploy™ is a product innovation of a concrete-filled fabric. Deploy™ brings a do-it-yourself approach to water management thanks to its flat-packed and easy-to-use design. It is possible to transfer Deploy™ water tanks to anywhere with any mode including drones, flights, trucks, or containers.

SDG 11: Deploy™ offers a product easy to transport helping people around to world to build sustainable communities cost-effectively. Deploy™ does not rely on centralized infrastructure systems to operate.

SDG 5: In the absence of a centralized water distribution system, the burden of water storage and transportation is heavily on the shoulders of women in the Global South. Deploy™ makes water management easier and creates free time for women.

Kayali is eager to expand the positive impact of Deploy™:

“A solution to climate crisis must be scalable. Otherwise, we are distorting the reality of what is required to achieve net-zero. Deploy™ ’s solution relies on decreasing the environmental impact of production and transportation while still making it possible for people to grow their plants and use water in their homes.”

Interview

Beren Kayali, Co-founder & CTO

Photo of interviewee

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Deploy™

Deploy™

Wales, Wales, GB

Business Website: https://www.deploytechltd.com/

Year Founded: 2020

Number of Employees: 2 to 10

Deploy™ offers a sustainable water management storage product through its game-changing water tanks made from a special concrete-filled fabric. Deploy™ is a product answering a wide range of water storage needs such as agriculture, wildfire mitigation, sewage, flood mitigation, disaster relief, and clean water sanitation.